|Our Guides fly the Saltire, however.|
Naturally the Girl Guides were absent too. Since I am naturally a motherly woman (see also Mulieris Dignitatem), one of my happiest moments of Edinburgh parish life was seeing Girl Guides suddenly come marching into church in their homemade blue uniforms. Of course I am content that the altar servers are always male, but here at last was something for the GIRLS. This amazing development was thanks to one of the mothers, a Frenchwoman who had somehow imported a young French traditional Catholic Scouting leader, so after Mass I congratulated her and suggested that the Guides come to the Historical House some time for tea.
This was an outrageously presumptuous invitation, for the Historical House is a business first and my home second, and I ought to have asked my husband, but I got carried away in my spiritually maternal joy. And somehow "tea" turned into "camping weekend", and eventually I had to confess to my husband what I had done. Fortunately he was terribly good about it. He even organized the Guides' nature walk; really, he was splendid. Sadly, camping is absolutely forbidden in the Historical House grounds, so we cleared out our dining-room and the Guides slept there. In the morning, B.A. and I marched our temporary family of French and Scottish daughters to the bus stop and we all went to Mass.
This year I was invited to join the board of the tiny independent Scout/Guide organisation, and to my joy I was invited to go along on the April camp. I suspect there are sneaky plans afoot to make me into a future Brown Owl for future Brownies or a Guide Captain when we run out of French ones. However, for the time being I was just invited as me, and one of the reasons I just got up at 5:30 AM on Saturday was to finish my analysis of Amoris Laetitia before I was due to join the Guides.
I was, of course, a Guide myself once upon a time, which I suppose means I have just been a lapsed Guide since I was 14 or 15. However, I was a Brownie and then a Guide from the age of 6, which meant 8 years of Brownie-Guide training and therefore the ability to pack a knapsack with everything necessary for Guide camp and to roll a decent (if sadly fat) bedroll within an hour's notice. I even had a long denim skirt--okay, I know I have made fun of the long denim skirt but I admit it is an essential piece of tradwear, especially when camping. Off I went to the bus stop, with B.A. carrying my bulky bedroll, bless him.
The trip to Aberdeenshire was done in stages. First we all went to Pittenweem to visit St. Fillan's cave. The Guides had to find it through clues given to them during some elaborate game, whereas two of the driving parents and I just obtained the key and visited it first ourselves. Then the car I was in went to Stonehaven where we picked up two more Guides from the railway station. Finally we arrived at the Scout camp and, as we were late and it was now raining miserably, the decision was made that the Guides, like the leaders and I, would sleep indoors on bunk-beds, not in a tent on the soggy field. Naturally we would all spend a lot of time outdoors, rain or no rain, sog or no sog. So we did, the girls and I (making up the numbers) running about playing Speed Noughts and Crosses. At some point one of the leaders drove off to fetch the chaplains, already down from their wee Orkney island to say Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the faithful of Aberdeen and us.
They came for supper and the Campfire. As all Guides (active or lapsed) know, Campfire is the Most Important Part of every Guide meeting or camp, featuring songs and sketches and, if the company is religious, prayer. Ours was in the rain, and I was very impressed that not only had the Guides had created a splendid fire, they had built a little shelter, complete with bench, for their Redemptorist guests and me. There were songs, dances and a funny game of "Freeze"and, most impressively, a "multi-media" presentation of the story of King Robert the Bruce and the relics of Saint Fillan. This involved actresses both in front of and behind a flash-lit screen and a musician playing a flute. Father Chaplain said a few words and a few prayers and then, goodness gracious, we prayed a five-decade rosary, which began with such prayers as "Sacred Heart of Jesus--SAVE RUSSIA."
After Campfire, the Guides and leaders all had various duties, but I didn't, so I betook my damp and bone-cold self to the leaders' dorm. When the Guides trooped off to their room, I was sure the night would be punctuated by giggles and chatting and leaders getting up to shout "Girls!", but it was not. Our Guides were told to be quiet and sleep, and so they were quiet and slept. Excellent respect for Guide Law, I must say. We adults slept like dead stones thrown from the seat of Moses.
After breakfast (grace before and after), the Guides were quizzed on Guide Law, which they recited in unison, and then I taught them the Guide Law marching song, which pleased everybody very much, especially me. The Guides had a lesson about Scouting and Catholic Scouting history, and Guides to make their formal Guide Promise were prepared for the ceremony that would take place after Mass in Aberdeen.
We struck camp in time to get back into cars and get to church. When we arrived the Aberdeen devotees of the EF were praying a pre-Mass rosary and Father Chaplain was hearing confessions. The white handout/booklet with the Propers was available in both English and Polish, which I found delightful. The homily was on the necessity of joining religious orders, and I would have felt very challenged had I not been married. I suppose I could put B.A. aside and go into a convent, but I very much doubt anyone would want me to do that.* After Mass there was After-Mass Tea and then the Promise Ceremony in the garden. This was followed by lunch in the church hall and then a 20 minute reflection on the Guide Laws by Father Chaplain. We tidied up, said our good-byes, and went back to our homes, wherever they were.
The weekend was highly edifying. There were so many prayers that when B.A. said grace before Sunday dinner, my first thought was "That's it?" However, this didn't dim the joy and fun of camp in any way. Lord Baden-Powell himself had been to that campground when it opened (!), and although he might not have approved of our Catholicism, he would certainly have approved of all the Christian reverence, to say nothing of the emphasis on Guide Law. On the other hand, he may have pointed out the lack of military smartness in our muddy skirts at church. (Actually, he would have had a heart attack.) Still, it's a very young company, and there is time for improvement. As our Guides seem to be growing in discipline and other Guide virtues, it is certain that their uniforms will one day take on a Baden-Powell approved smartness, even after camping in the rain.
Speaking of smartness, as I have volunteered to give the Guides a few cooking, baking and hostessing lessons, I must scrub the kitchen today. I don't think the lessons will be in my kitchen, but anyone who volunteers to teach Guides anything ought to show a bit more pride in the state of her spice shelf.
*There is an order of traditional Benedictine nuns in Missouri who have the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. If anyone knows of other religious orders of women who love the EF, please give links in the combox. Naturally, I am a big fan of the Benedictine Sisters of Saint Cecilia in Ryde, but unfortunately they do not have the EF.
Meanwhile, if I were a young man with a call to Benedictine religious life, I would visit here. (It's where I would send B.A. on my deathbed, should I die sooner rather than later.) However, if I felt most drawn to the life of a desert monk, I would visit Papa Stronsay. Yes, it may be in the North Sea, but it's still a desert. It's a damp desert.
UPDATE: Edinburgh Housewife is up again for those who feel like reading old posts. You have a nice Son of the Most Holy Redeemer of Papa Stronsay to thank for this!